The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals today announced that a provision of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion bill, HB2, will be allowed to go into effect. The provision requires abortion clinics to meet the stringent building standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Since only seven clinics in the state currently meet that requirement, the rest will be forced to shutter (in July there were about 20 clinics still open in the state).
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), nearly 1 million women in the state will now have to travel 300 miles or more to get to an abortion clinic.
Says Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of CRR,
Today’s ruling has gutted Texas women’s constitutional rights and access to critical reproductive health care and stands to make safe, legal abortion essentially disappear overnight. … All Texas women have been relegated today to a second class of citizens whose constitutional rights are lesser than those in states less hostile to reproductive autonomy, and women facing difficult economic circumstances will be particularly hard hit by this devastating blow.
The 5th Circuit overturned an August decision by U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel striking down the ambulatory surgical center requirement.
Feminist Majority Foundation president (and publisher of Ms.) Eleanor Smeal said of Yeakel’s decision:
A woman’s constitutionally protected right to seek out a safe and legal abortion should not hinge on the width of a doorway. Access to abortion and birth control is under attack across the nation. No other outpatient service has been made to adhere to these medically unnecessary and harmful requirements.
Anti-choice lawmakers in Texas pushed through HB2 in June, arguing that restrictions on abortion protect women’s and children’s lives. However, a recent report from Ibis Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights found that states with the highest numbers of abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes for women and children.
UPDATE 10/3/2014: RH Reality Check reports that eight clinics will remain open in Texas.
UPDATE 10/6/2014: Women’s healthcare providers and allies, including the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation, have filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the 5th Circuit’s decision. The groups cite evidence showing that provisions of HB2 create an undue burden for women (20,000 in the state no longer have access to abortion care.)
This story is developing…